June 1, 2012

  • West Virginia residents call for halt to massive mine project as report reveals industry influence in climate policy
  • UN condemns attack in Syria as massacres show heavy toll on children
  • Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi wraps up historic visit to Thailand with call for migrant rights
  • In Korea, one family’s search to reunite spans decades

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Quebec government ends negotiations with students

In Canada, the government in Quebec called off negotiations with student unions aimed at resolving the crisis over tuition fee hikes.  In response, thousands of people again took to the streets. FSRN’s Stefan Christoff reports.

Up to 10 000 people took to the streets last night in Montreal to protest the Quebec government’s refusal to back-down on proposed hikes to university tuition fees.  The failure of negotiations between student unions and the government comes after after 16 weeks of an open ended student strike. In what is becoming a nightly event, demonstrators banged pots and pans as they marched through downtown Montreal. Government officials are attempting to push hikes to tuition fees that will see tuition rates rise over 80%.  On the streets many student associations are demanding not only an end to tuition hikes but for an end to tuition fees all together. Protests on the streets are taking place in open defiance of Law 78, a controversial piece of legislation which places tough restrictions on protests. Amnesty International describe the law as granting police quote “unprecedented powers,”. With the failure of negotiations, further demonstrations are being planned.  In Montreal students are planning to hold a major rally this weekend backed by community groups and trade unions. Stefan Christoff, FSRN, Montreal.

Protests against restarting nuclear reactors in Japan

In Japan, the decision to restart some of the country’s nuclear reactors has been met with public opposition.  According to Reuters, about a thousand people demonstrated outside Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s office in Tokyo today. The protest follows an announcement on Wednesday that reactors which had been declared safe would be restarted.  All of Japan’s nuclear power stations were taken offline following the 2011 disaster at Fukushima.  A poll last year found that half of all Japanese citizens want nuclear power plants to be shutdown.

Lawsuit against solitary confinement in California

In California, advocates have announced they are bringing a lawsuit challenging long term solitary confinement on behalf of ten prisoners held inside the Security Housing Units at Pelican Bay State Prison. Thousands of prisoners there took part in a state-wide hunger strike last year to protest the controversial units.

“We hope that this case will strike a major blow against the increasing use of solitary confinement both in California and throughout the country.”

Jules Lobel is President of the Center for Constitutional Rights.  He says that long term solitary confinement is unconstitutional

“We as a society do not condone torture- we’ve signed onto international agreements which prohibit torture.  Our 8th amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. We think holding people for decades in a small cell not much bigger than a typical parking space with no windows, four stark four walls, for many, many years is unconscionable in our society.”

Lobel hopes that the case will result in the release of prisoners held for over 10 years in solitary confinement and for all prisoners in the units to get a meaningful review of the decision to keep them detained.   The case is expected to come to trial within a year

Government appeals warrantless spying ruling

Arguments open today in the appeal of a 2010 ruling against the government’s warrantless spying program. Two years ago, a Judge in San Francisco awarded damages to two lawyers whose phone calls had been illegally tapped by the National Security Agency while they were talking with clients in Saudi Arabia. It is the only successful case against the government’s domestic spying program THUS far. Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoor each received more than twenty thousand dollars in compensation. Attempts to challenge the program in the courts have proven difficult.  That’s in part because of a retro-active immunity law passed in 2008.

Voter suppression in Florida

Right to vote advocates in Florida are today celebrating moves to roll back what they say are voter suppression tactics.  FSRN’s Janelle Irwin reports from Tampa.

The Department of Justice has sent a letter to Florida’s Secretary of State demanding that state officials stop removing people from the voter rolls.  At the bidding of Governor Rick Scott, thousands of registered voters were flagged as ineligible to vote, based on driving lisense.  The letter said the purge was unconstitutional. Deirdre MacNab is president of the Florida League of Women Voters. She said it’s a win for Florida voters.

“Any student or watcher of Florida knows that the state has a clear history in past years of removing still eligible voters from the rolls and it is an issue that we watch with grave concern.  Clearly the Department of Justice was concerned when suddenly the supervisors were presented with long lists of people who had been flagged and upon further inspection were finding that significant numbers of them were in fact eligible.”

Meanwhile, on Thursday a federal judge blocked enforcement of some parts of Florida’s year-old voting law.  Under the law, third party voter registration groups would have had to turn in applications within 48 hours or face harsh penalties.  The ruling means, they will now have ten days to submit applications and penalties for not complying have been reduced. The Florida League of Women Voters had suspended their voter drives.  Deirdre Macnab said they are now reviewing that decision, but expect to resume registration drives. Janelle Irwin, FSRN, Tampa.



West Virginia residents call for halt to massive mine project as report reveals industry influence in climate policy

In Washington, a congressional committee has now waded into a case that pits the powerful coal industry against the federal government’s responsibility to protect public health and the environment. On Friday, lawmakers focused on the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to veto a proposed mountaintop removal mining project in West Virginia after the agency found that the massive project would violate the Clean Water Act and threaten local communities. The EPA now faces a lawsuit from the coal industry from that decision. The hearing comes on the heels of a new report tracking how big fossil fuel corporations have funneled millions of dollars to anti-regulation politicians, lobbying groups and think tanks that question climate science. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

UN condemns attack in Syria as massacres show heavy toll on children

In Syria today, activists report continued bombardment of neighborhoods in Homs and killings of civilians by security forces in Dareyya and Deir Izzour. A video posted online by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights showed protesters filling streets and chanting. The Observatory described the demonstration documented in the video as taking place today in the Qalat al Madeeq neighborhood in reaction to the massacre last week in Houla, which left more than 100 people dead. In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution today at a special session condemning the killings in Houla. UN High Commissioner Navi Pillay addressed the council in a statement read by Marcia Kran:

“I urge the international community to throw its weight behind the Joint Envoy’s six-point plan and call for the conduct of immediate investigations into the El-Houleh events, as well as into other human rights violations committed in Syria.”

Pillay also warned of what she called “full-fledged conflict” in the country and the region. The UN resolution passed with only Russia, China and Cuba voting against it. Uganda and Ecuador expressed concern but abstained from the vote. For more, we’re joined by Rafif Jouejati, spokesperson for the Local Coordination Committees in Syria. She joins us by phone from Washington, DC.

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi wraps up historic visit to Thailand with call for migrant rights

Myanmar opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, called for transparency and caution in investing in her country after Burma’s military leaders have allowed some reforms to take effect, but she said she remains optimistic. Her remarks came in an address to the World Economic Forum in Thailand, where she also met with migrant workers in an emotional meeting. FSRN’s Ron Corben reports.

In Korea, one family’s search to reunite spans decades

The Korean peninsula has been divided for more than 60-years — as have been thousands of Korean families.  Both Korean government’s prohibit mail and phone contact between the two sides and while reunions had been held for some families, there are no signs of a future round to take place soon. Faced with no other option to reunite with lost loved ones, some South Koreans have taken matters into their own hands. A small number have made contact with North Korean relatives without the help of the government. FSRN’s Jason Strother tells us about one woman who went on a search for her mother six decades after losing her in the Korean War.

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